As the pandemic carries on, restaurants with their backs on the ropes continue to innovate and shift business operations against a backdrop of financial uncertainty. Six months into the new reality of restaurant operations, D.C. has become no stranger to sandwich shop pop-ups. From Columbia Room’s new concept Your Only Friend and All Purpose’s Delikatessen to crush subbies slinging subs out of Coconut Club and Espita’s new dual operation Ghostburger, options abound in the nation’s capital.
Next to enter the ring of sandwich pop-ups: Fight Club. After seven years in Capitol Hill, chef and co-owner Andrew Markert and the team at Beuchert’s Saloon were forced to reevaluate operations after slowdown in business. Their counterpunch to the pandemic? A hiatus for Beuchert’s to be temporarily replaced by comfort food sandwiches, an idea that had been churning in Markert’s brain for well over a year.
“We always had a cool sandwich following and sandwiches have always been something that I’ve gravitated toward,” he says of Fight Club’s inspiration. “I wanted to recreate my idea of the comfort food sandwich and give it a twist – a little bit more inspired, a little bit more thought-provoking.”
Although plans for a sandwich shop were in talks for a while, the team had just about a month to execute from idea to opening day once the decision to pivot was made.
The main card reads as a list of familiar sandwiches but with a serious upgrade. The typical tuna melt levels up into the Tonnato Melt with roasted pork, tonnato sauce, pickles, American cheese and bacon on sourdough, and the Beefsteak and Cheese is not your mama’s Philly cheesesteak. Markert’s spin includes vegetarian-friendly ingredients with roasted beefsteak tomatoes, cherry pepper relish, grilled onions, sharp provolone and fermented honey mayo on a soft hoagie roll.
A favorite of Markert’s? The Salami & Slaw packed with fried Genoa salami, Napa cabbage slaw, hot mustard and potato sticks on zesty garlic bread. Beuchert’s fans will rejoice in the BS Smash Burger, Fight Club’s homage to the restaurant’s popular burger with some additions and a slightly different approach. As the chef puts it, the burger is “a little more Fight Club-esque, less Beuchert’s-esque.”
Meanwhile, beverage director Mackenzie Conway has crafted a lineup of effervescent bottled cocktails with varying levels of hitting power. Whether you’re a flyweight (lighter, bubbly cocktails), a heavyweight (tiki-style rum punches and more) or something in between (looking at you, welterweights), there’s a beverage to go pound for pound with. On a warm fall day, Markert recommends the aperol spritz with aperol, sparkling vino, bubbles and orange as a refreshing, crisp companion to any of his sandwiches.
As Fight Club takes center stage, one thing that won’t change from Beuchert’s is the team’s efforts to knock out social injustice. From incorporating service director Maya Fiellin’s Fuck the System Hot Sauce into menu items (proceeds from the hot sauce are donated to Stop Police Terror Project DC) to providing protestors refreshments and continuing to donate to organizations, these efforts that are “part of the character and beliefs of the Beuchert’s Saloon family” will continue at the new sandwich shop.
As Fight Club nears a month of being open, Markert is already thinking ahead to new sandwich combinations to be paired with cocktails from Conway for a one-two punch. With the current state of pandemic affairs, the team plans for Fight Club to operate into next year. Although the exact timing and when Beuchert’s might make a return are uncertain, one thing is for sure: Keep these sandwiches in your corner.
Fight Club: 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; www.fightclubdc.com